Post Brand Positioning Seminar

27 Aug

I attended a great Brand Positioning seminar today held at the Enterprise Center of Johnson County. Today’s speaker was Grant Gooding of Proof Positioning. Let’s drop a cliche here: It was an engaging and informative talk delivered by an excellent speaker.

I knew I was out of my neck of the woods when I overheard a discussion behind me where one person lamented, “It’s not that the money is going away … I guess it’s just converting into equity.”

Most people I know don’t talk that way. Or perhaps I just spend my money on the wrong things.

Probably the most interesting point made was distinguishing between business decisions and brand decisions. Much of the rest of the talk was distilled here into the idea that we make a lot of decisions every day about our companies. Some of these are clearly Business Decisions – those intended to maximize margins in the short term. Some are clearly Brand Decisions – those that are intended to build the brand regardless of short term margins. (note: I’m paraphrasing these definitions here. I don’t want to give short shrift to Grant.)

95797955-1-207x300As examples, he focused on two companies: Starbucks and Tylenol.

With respect to Tylenol, the cyanide poisonings of 1982. I remember this well. These poisonings came about a month before Halloween and pretty much put an end to the holiday that year. By the way, guess how many people have even been poisoned by Halloween Candy?

Why bring up Tylenol’s troubled past? Because of the way that, then Johnson and Johnson CEO, James Burke, handled the crisis. From Time Magazine‘s article on the occasion of his death, “Under Burke’s leadership, the company spent $100 million to recall 31 million bottles of Tylenol and re-launched the product two months later in tamper-proof packaging.” Burke’s actions, which looked to be devastating to the company at the time, won him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000.

How about that? A brand decision so good that President Clinton awards you the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Slam dunk.

A second example, which is totally appropriate to bring up now, because I’m sitting in one, is Starbucks. To paraphrase again, What did the decision to put a drive thru on a Starbucks have on their brand? What defines the Starbucks brand? The coffee – or the experience? Perhaps putting Starbucks cups in the hands of half the population is great for advertising, but what does it do to the experience?

It doesn’t look like there is much room for the ‘Starbucks Experience’ in this building:


Would you like an authentic coffeehouse experience with that, sir?


Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Uncategorized


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5 responses to “Post Brand Positioning Seminar

  1. Jennifer Mallory

    August 27, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    I believe exactly 0 children have been poisoned by Halloween candy but one has died at the hands of a father accusing a neighbor of doing so! That man was the reason I had to throw away half my candy every year after all that hard work!

    • downhousesoftware

      August 28, 2015 at 1:05 pm

      It’s a dark day when Halloween candy winds up in the trash – you know, except for the Sugar Daddy Taffy Pops, Mary Janes, 5th Avenue Bars, and whatever other crappy candy you get after a long discussion about your costume and where you go to school at any given senior citizen’s house (wow that sounds rough – it’s OK, I don’t mean any senior citizen young enough to be alive today – old people were different when I was a kid. They thought wax was candy and often had bowls of unwrapped, sticky globs of hard candies instead of familiar treats from honest to goodness Hershey’s Family Sized Halloween Bags)

  2. Melissa Roberts (ECJC)

    August 31, 2015 at 8:51 am

    Thanks for the kind words about our workshop! Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Grant Gooding

    September 12, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it! You paraphrased perfectly and gave me some direction that I should expand the business vs. Brand decision content so thanks for that. Im with you regarding the nerds behind you – I will definely leave that kind of talk to the suits. When it comes to spending money I’m a cold beer and Royals game kind of guy. Out of curiosity when you were in Starbucks were you looking around for biz and Brand decisions?


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